HOUSING ADVOCACY GROUP RESPONDS TO HOUSING PROVISIONS IN FY23 BUDGET
As a multi-sector coalition of organizations focused on increasing the supply of safe, healthy and affordable homes across Rhode Island, Homes RI is pleased that the State Budget for Fiscal Year 2023, approved by the General Assembly this week, fully funds Governor McKee’s proposed $250 million investment in housing. This prioritization of funds is an important step to address Rhode Islanders’ housing needs after decades of underinvestment. With this level of housing investments in the budget, the House Finance Committee, General Assembly Leadership and the Governor have sent a clear signal of commitment to meet the serious need for more homes and services for people experiencing housing insecurity across Rhode Island. The budget includes targeted investments of more than $30 million to serve the lowest income households.
Over the past year, Homes RI advocated for State Leaders to make a substantial investment of American Rescue Plan State Fiscal Recovery funds to improve housing stability for Rhode Islanders. The $221 million in SFR funds allocated for housing in this budget (on top of $29 million approved in the RI Rebounds Act approved in January 2022) represent an historic level of investment providing critical financial resources for housing development, expanded homeownership opportunities, and support for people experiencing homelessness. State Leaders faced many crucial decisions in formulating this year’s State Budget, and we thank the members of the General Assembly for keeping a strong emphasis on housing. We are encouraged to see that under the leadership of Speaker Shekarchi, many of the housing policy initiatives introduced this year complement much-needed investments allocated in the FY23 State Budget, including the elevation of the Deputy Secretary of Housing to a Cabinet-level position. The necessity of pairing substantive policy legislation and robust investments together cannot be overstated.
We applaud the General Assembly for their leadership on housing this year, building on important initiatives enacted in 2021, such as the creation and seeding of the state’s first dedicated Housing Production Fund. Housing is an ongoing need that changes over time in response to population shifts, policy decisions, and levels of investment. We know there is more to do. In a poll of likely Democratic primary voters conducted in May by Roger Williams University and WPRI, 91% of respondents identified the cost of housing as a serious concern. In just the past 12 months, rents and sales prices have increased by 20% or more according to various real estate tracking sources, (reported by RI REALTORS Association and WPRI, May 2, 2022). RentReliefRI was successful in keeping thousands of eviction-vulnerable households from becoming homeless, but the program’s closure to new applicants at a time of heightened market pressures and rising inflation means continued economic instability for most of our lowest-income Rhode Islanders. Our shelter and housing placement systems remain overwhelmed since the onset of the pandemic. As of June 22, 2022, there are 291 people living outside. Since winter shelter and hotel bed funding has expired, there are a dearth of housing alternatives for people experiencing homelessness (RI Coalition to End Homelessness).
It is our hope that moving forward State Leaders remain steadfast in their commitment to addressing Rhode Island’s housing challenges by reducing barriers and making continued investments in development, preservation, and stabilization services. We urge our elected officials in the General Assembly and Executive Administration to consider the substantial impact that can be made with long-term, sustained investments in housing supply and stabilization which are necessary for the prosperity and well being of our State in the decades to come — especially for Rhode Islanders with the lowest incomes.